A knowledge of the history of the peoples of present-day Niger can help us understand the country's contemporary society and politics, but only if we view that history in its broader context. What the record demonstrates is that life in the Nigerien Sahel has been strongly shaped by external forces working through and modifying existing societies. This chapter examines the interrelationships among the basic dynamics of Niger's societies and four forces of change—environmental changes producing competition between two modes of life, nomadic and sedentary; economic changes, which alter relations between Nigerien societies and the regional and world economies and produce an on-going struggle for control of trade; political changes, which shift control over the Sahel as powerful actors outside of Niger rise and fall; and ideological changes, structuring competing belief systems and religions that bid for the minds of Niger's people. These interrelationships are examined for three epochs in Niger's history: the precolonial era, the colonial era, and the era of rising "nationalism" and the transition to independence. Because Nigerien history is so intertwined with external forces it cannot be understood as being self-contained, unique, or a determinant of future action. It's study can, however, shed light on how Nigerien societies have adjusted to natural and human economic and political stresses in the past and help us understand what the limits and potential for current action may be.